Austin Bucket List for 2014: Mexic-Arte and The Jones Center

bucketlist1Here at LiveMom, we put out a call to a few of our friends to see if anyone else wanted to join us on our Bucket List Adventure for 2014. The idea was to get out there and do one thing we’ve always wanted to do in Austin…about one per month. It might be with kids, might be without. Either way, we’re going to report back to you on how it went. If you go to the page with all of our lists, you can see which ones we have completed and written about.

We’re thrilled that Skye Kilaen joined us on our quest! Last we heard from her, she and her son cooled off at two local area splash pads. This time, the two of them headed downtown to take in some culture. Here’s what she shared about that experience:

When making our summer Austin bucket list, I knew this was the perfect chance to visit a museum I have never made it to: The Mexic-Arte Museum downtown. (Why I didn’t take advantage of its presence at 5th and Congress while I worked downtown is a mystery that may never be solved.) So one Sunday in early June we got in the car, headed downtown, scored the most magical easy parking space in the history of Austin, and… they were between exhibitions.

Rule #1 of visiting art museums, especially small ones: Look at their website ahead of time and make sure there’s some art to see!

But it was a nice day and we had that amazing parking space, so we walked up to the Jones Center at 7th and Congress. The Jones Center is part of The Contemporary Austin, so its full name is The Contemporary Austin: Jones Center, a name which is just as overly complicated as its website.

We stepped through the front door to find an extremely tall shiny gold humanoid statue, which of course Boy Detective was instantly fascinated by, and stepped towards… and three different adults started calling out “DON’T TOUCH.” Which he wasn’t going to, in my opinion, but they had no way to know that, so fair’s fair. I would just point out that if they want to put a line around a statue so people know not to cross it, they might want to not use grey tape on a grey cement floor.

Our visit calmed down after that. In case anyone needs them or wants to adapt them, there are our museum rules – worked out quickly in hushed tones as we recovered from the kerfluffle in the lobby.

  • Talk in a library voice.
  • Pretend there’s a line on the floor in front of the art showing you how close it’s safe to get.
  • Keep your hands behind your back if you’re afraid you might touch something.

Adults pay $5 to get in, with kids being free, or you can go on Tuesdays when it’s free for everyone. We were given a kids’ guide to the current exhibit, A Secret Affair: Selections from the Fuhrman Family Collection, though it was a little confusing since part of the exhibit is at The Jones Center and part is at Laguna Gloria, and so some of the pages were about art we weren’t seeing.

The art, though? Fascinating! Most of the pieces are 3D. There’s a wide range of techniques and art styles. Boy Detective’s favorite piece is in the back, and it’s on two opposing walls. Kind of looks like canvases covered with black disco ball material and cracked. The artist intended the art to be completed by someone walking in between the canvases and their reflection showing up in both so that was pretty interesting to contemplate. You can see photos of some of the pieces on The Contemporary Austin website.

A Secret Affair runs through August 24th and I’d recommend it, with this caveat: if you don’t want your children seeing any nudity in art, skip this one. The exhibit is not about having an affair, but there are a couple of pieces with realistic nudity, such as a couple sleeping, and a painting of a woman wearing just jeans. It didn’t bother us, but everyone has a different setting for that kind of thing. You may not want to put up with an hour of kids cracking up about boobies if that’s how yours would react, and more power to you for knowing the limits of your endurance.

And then, finally, we made it to The Mexic-Arte Museum! We did not have magical parking fairies looking out for us this trip, but we persevered.

Normally it’s $5 and adults and $1 for kids, but admission is free on Sundays, so we put some money in the donation box. It feels a lot more relaxed than The Jones Center (though we did not test that by trying to manhandle the art).

Another attractive thing about it, they have skulls in the gift shop:

AdvertisementI could see Boy Detective trying to work out the math with his allowance and these skulls.

Here’s the first exhibit we saw:

Young Latina Artists 19: Y, QuĂ©? which runs through September 7th. The 19 is for the 19th year for this annual exhibit which focuses on Latino artists under 35. There is a sign at the door warning that the exhibit has some graphic content, and just like at The Jones Center, this is not an exhibit curated for kids. There’s a little female nudity, and some crochet artwork of human shapes including “private parts.” That is not a big deal to us but again your mileage may vary.

What I liked about this exhibit was the numerous pieces that were heavily multi-media, including video components. Some of the art was fun, some it dealt with extremely serious themes, and there was so much variety that each of could gravitate towards the pieces that we were most interested in.

We were also big fans of the giant sequined skull pinata. And the video showing people breaking it.

Here’s the second exhibit we saw:

Women of The Serie Project runs through September 7th. The Serie Project is an Austin nonprofit Latino arts organization that does artists’ residencies in a printmaking technique called serigraphy. This exhibit highlights prints by female artists that have done the residency program.

After going through the first exhibit and then half of the Serie Project, Boy Detective hit overload and lay down on the floor. He was super relieved when I told him the exhibits would be there for a while and we could come back another time to see the rest of it. It’s not a huge museum, but there is a lot of art in there right now.

Here’s how we talked about the art we were seeing in both museums, with a six-almost-seven year old who has always loved to make art:

  • What’s the title of this artwork? Does that make sense?
  • How long do you think it took to make this?
  • What does it look like to you? What do you think about when you look at it?
  • What does the sign on the wall say the artist was thinking about? What topics?

Reading the signs was a lot harder at the Mexic-Arte Museum than at The Jones Center, because they included a TON of information on the signs in the Young Latino Artists exhibit. It was great for me as an adult but took more time to read, understand, and then translate high points into kid-friendly speak.

Overall, we had a great time at both museums. Each of us found several favorites in all three of the exhibits we saw. Both are small museums so they feel very do-able. I think if you find good parking, you could easily visit one and then the other with older kids, especially if you do a snack break in between somewhere on Congress.

Oh and did I mention the skulls in the gift shop at The Mexic-Arte museum? ‘Cause they have those.

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